WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today welcomed passage in the House of Representatives of his legislation to impose new sanctions on Syria’s Assad regime and its supporters, encourage negotiations to end the six-year old crisis, and prompt investigations into the eventual prosecution of war criminals. The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, named after the former Syrian military photographer known as “Caesar” who documented Assad’s horrific brutality, would also single out human rights violators, and evaluate the potential of a no-fly or safe-zone over Syria. The bill passed unanimously in the House.

“If you’re supporting this murder—if you’re enabling the Butcher in Damascus to continue waging that sort of violence against his own people—you’re going to face consequences,” said Rep. Engel on the House floor. “This bill would sanction anyone who provides material support for the Assad regime. We want to go after the actual hardware that keeps his war machine running: the planes and bombs that terrorize the Syrian people, and the spare parts and oil that keep everything running.  If you do business with Assad, the blood of the Syrian people is on your hands, and you’re going to get caught up in these sanctions.”

The Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection Act of 2017 is named in honor of the former Syrian military photographer “Caesar” who risked his life to show members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Assad’s torture of Syrian civilians. This bill would impose new sanctions on human rights abuses, encourage negotiations, and authorize the State Department to support entities that are collecting and preserving the chain of evidence for eventual prosecution of those committing war crimes or crimes against humanity in Syria. This legislation also leaves flexibility for the Administration so that sanctions can be waived on a case-by-case basis to keep negotiations moving along.

A version of this bill unanimously passed the House of Representatives last year.

In Depth: The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act

New Sanctions on Syria

The bill would require the President to impose new sanctions on anyone who

• Does business with or provides financing to the Government of Syria, including Syrian intelligence and security services, or the Central Bank of Syria;

• Provides aircraft or spare parts for aircraft to Syria’s airlines (including financing);

• Does business with transportation or telecom sectors controlled by the Syrian government; or

• Supports Syria’s energy industry.

This bill does not interfere with U.S. obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Encouraging Negotiations

Under the bill, the President could waive sanctions on a case-by-case basis.  Also, sanctions could be suspended if the parties are engaged in meaningful negotiations and the violence against civilians has ceased.  Suspension would be renewable if the suspension is critical to the continuation of negotiations and attacks against civilians have ceased.

Gathering Evidence for War Crimes Investigations and Prosecutions

The bill would authorize the Secretary of State to support entities that are collecting and preserving evidence for the eventual prosecution of those who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria from March 2011 to the present. 

Name and Shame Human Rights Violators  

The bill would require the President to report to Congress on the names of those who are responsible for or complicit in gross violations of human rights of the Syrian people.

Report on Monitoring and Evaluating Cross-border Assistance to Syria

In light of recent press reports about the abuse of cross-border assistance, this legislation would strengthen oversight on the monitoring and evaluation of such assistance.

Evaluation of a Potential No-Fly Zone

The bill would require the President to submit a report on the potential effectiveness, risks, and operational requirements of the establishment and maintenance of a no-fly zone or a safe zone over part or all of Syria.